From Lego to the US Air Force, this Australian innovator's designs have influenced the world.


The cost has always been a factor for those wanting to learn to fly—and so it was for entrepreneur Chris Ryan. So, the then Taree-based council officer built a simulator. His first design began with his childhood Lego collection, but later his designs became more advanced. Mr Ryan described his first helicopter simulator—a Blackhawk—as involving 'pretty dodgy' welding with PVC piping and gaffer tape attached to an office chair—but that was then. Earlier this year, the US Air Force invited submissions for new innovations to train fighter pilots. As part of a consortium, Mr Ryan's business—Ryan Aerospace—won the contract over multi-billion-dollar competitors. Now located on the Gold Coast, production at Ryan Aerospace has gone from four simulators a year to 200. The business is now scaling up to start full production for the next batch of simulators for the US Air Force. Ryan says:

"We took our helicopter simulator—we only had two weeks' notice to do this—and we converted it to a jet-fighter simulator."


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